Family Plovers (Charadriidae)

Near Threatened

Snowy Plover (Charadrius nivosus)


French: Pluvier neigeux German: Amerika-Seeregenpfeifer Spanish: Chorlitejo nivoso
Other common names: Peruvian Plover (occidentalis)

Aegialitis nivosus


, 1858,

Presidio, California


Closely related to C. marginatus, C. alexandrinus, C. dealbatus, C. javanicus and C. ruficapillus, and all have on occasion been considered conspecific. Until recently, was considered conspecific with C. alexandrinus (and also with C. dealbatus), but differs in much sandier, less rufous-tinged cap (2); lack of a black loral stripe (2); smaller size, with male tarsus 25.56 ± 0.67 vs 29.15 ± 1.36 (effect size 3.35) (2); differences in vocalizations#R (score indeterminate but at least 1). Race occidentalis sometimes considered a distinct species; further study required. Part of population on Gulf of Mexico often separated as race tenuirostris on basis of supposedly paler coloration, but many recent authors include it in nominate nivosus; some evidence, however, of genetic distinctiveness#R. Two subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. n. nivosus (Cassin, 1858) – W, C & SC USA, NW, C & E Mexico, Bahamas, Greater Antilles and Leeward Antilles; winters S to Panama.
  • C. n. occidentalis (Cabanis, 1872) – coastal SW Ecuador and Peru to SC Chile.
  • Descriptive notes

    15–17 cm; 33·7–58 g; wingspan 42–45 cm. Small plover with white hindneck collar and breastband always restricted to sides, pale brown upperparts and dark grey to blackish... read more


    Rather silent, but during breeding season may call at time of day or night. Most-frequently heard... read more


    Mainly breeds on sandy coastal beaches, barrier islands, at inland saline lakes and on river bars,... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet mainly terrestrial, freshwater, brackish, and marine invertebrates. For example, during breeding season on S California coast, beetles... read more


    Almost all data pertain to nominate nivosus. Season: egg-laying starts Jan in Puerto Rico, about second week of Mar in coastal... read more


    In USA, coastal populations comprise both migrants and residents, but most inland breeders are... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Currently considered Near Threatened. Population breeding along Pacific coast of US and Baja California is listed by US Fish & Wildlife Service... read more

    Recommended citation

    del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Snowy Plover (Charadrius nivosus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 25 May 2019).